You know that the bashing of Andy Dalton has gone comically over-the-top when a compliment is twisted into a criticism.
Here’s what Adam Jones said to Erik Kuselias of NBCSN’s Pro Football Talk when asked, “Are you 100% convinced that Andy Dalton is good enough to take this team to the Super Bowl?”
“I’m convinced,” said Jones. “I’m 99% convinced that Andy can take us to the Super Bowl.”
That comment produced this headline “Adam Jones Not 100% Convinced Andy Dalton Can Lead Bengals to Super Bowl.”
Technically speaking that’s accurate, but really?
When pressed to say what it would take to be completely convinced, here’s what Adam added:
“I think he just needs to step up vocally and lead the team,” he said. “That’s about the only thing – the other one percent. But I think he has all the tools and all the weapons, to lead us there.”
Not exactly a rip job.
Listen, we all know that quarterbacks – especially in the Twitter era – are going to be hammered every time they make a lousy throw.
“That’s what he signed up for,” said offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. “I tell him all of the time that if he didn’t want the criticism, he should have sold insurance.”
The harsh spotlight has been warranted in the playoffs where Dalton has not performed well in a pair of losses to Houston. But it’s hard to find too much fault with what he’s accomplished in the regular season. After inheriting a 4-12 team that was expected to be among the NFL’s worst squads in 2011, Dalton has completed 61% of his career passes, with 55 TD and only 35 INT. The Bengals are 23-15 in his 38 regular season starts. I doubt that a single Bengals fan would have objected to those numbers when Dalton was selected in the second round of the draft.
“It comes with the position,” said Marvin Lewis. “If he were 38-0, everybody would feel better – I know I would. But you’ve got to love his demeanor.”
Last week in Buffalo, the Bengals quarterback was 26-for-40 for 337 yards, 3 TD and 1 INT for a passer rating of 105.9. However, Dalton still took heat for not throwing the ball downfield since 243 of his passing yards came after the catch.
“Andy had an amazing game,” said Giovani Bernard. “He was able to limit the turnovers, move the ball, and control the tempo.”
For those who have a negative opinion of Dalton, it generally centers around two things we knew about him before he ever put on a Bengals uniform: That he’s not that tall and doesn’t possess a John Elway-like cannon for a throwing arm.
“I think what it comes down to is whether you believed in Andy Dalton or not,” said ESPN’s John Clayton. “I’m sure that those who did not believe in Andy Dalton are saying, ‘Told you so. Told you he didn’t have the strongest arm,’ and all of that stuff.”
But is Andy’s arm strong enough to get the job done?
“Repetitive accuracy is the number one quality we’re looking for in a quarterback,” said Eagles coach Chip Kelly when asked about arm strength during last year’s draft. “We’re not trying to knock over milk cartons at the county fair.”
I don’t mean to suggest that all criticism of Dalton is unfair. His deep ball accuracy is the most obvious area of concern, and Andy remains a work in progress in terms of reading defenses and reacting to pressure in the pocket.
“I think he comes in every day with the right frame of mind trying to get better,” said Gruden. “He knows he’s not perfect, but he’s trying to get there. He’s doing the best that he can and we’re trying to help him find plays that he’s comfortable with and trying not to force things down his throat. We’re trying to keep him protected in the running game and the short passing game, but if we get down or he needs to throw it deep, he needs to do a better job.”
Uh-oh. I can see the headline now: “Gruden Says Dalton Needs To Do A Better Job.”
Let’s get back to the original question: Can Andy Dalton lead the Bengals to the Super Bowl?
Jeff Hostetler, Brad Johnson, and Mark Rypien are Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks. David Woodley, Neil O’Donnell, and Rex Grossman guided their team to the Super Bowl before losing the big game.
Put me down as 100% convinced.
I’d love to hear from you at Dan.Hoard@Bengals.nfl.net
If you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard
And I’m on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dan.hoard.1